Finding Joy… where is it?

Advent week three… light the JOY candle and let’s all be happy! 

Plastic smiles at the ready we can brave another day of rushing to get life done. Christmas is crazy! We loose our minds from time to time… recitals, parties, work, church, school… it’s exhausting and worse. Somewhere in there we have to shop, wrap gifts, decorate, trim a tree, and prepare for family. JOY

Sunday we sit for an hour and listen to the pastor tell us to put on “JOY” and we’re urged to remember the reason for the season in our hectic holiday. We smile and nod, seems like a good idea… but by Monday morning we’re so removed from that ideal we can’t even recall the passage it was preached from, let alone live with intent.

First of all… skip the guilt and shame. No one is here to bash you. We’re all parents, living in the same nutty world. It’s a struggle to balance life in the best of times… let alone at Christmas. No other holiday compresses so many facets of our lives into one three or four-week period. Personal, private, family, church, professional, etc… everyone area of living gets a dose of Christmas obligation and in the end we’re left on the short side of it all. 

So… couple of encouragements.

1 – Happiness is NOT the same as “JOY”.  The Christian ideal for Advent isn’t fake happy. It is a cool reminder that God is really the one in control. Gives us permission to relax. In letting go we can rest in the work we’re doing and in letting go we find Peace.

2- Perfection doesn’t exist. So you can stop killing yourself to have the perfect party, dinner, Christmas… etc. Smile at the gaps in your life, instead of critiquing yourself and everyone else for falling ‘short’. After all it’s those imperfections that give us ‘character’… and who doesn’t love “character’?

3 – Enjoy the season at a pace that you can reasonably tolerate. Say “NO” when you must. No Guilt. You cannot do everything for everyone. Include times to rest and recharge yourself in the weekly commitments.

4- Stay off social media for a bit. It can be overwhelming and a huge distraction. The pictures and posts are all awesome and enjoyable, but for parents in overload…. it’ maybe a hill too far. The contentment factor is a personal issues for some… if it affects your JOY… ditch it for a while.

5- Sleep. It’s way underrated. Seven to Eight hours a night. Stop what you’re doing in time to go to bed. Whatever it is… you can do it better with a clear mind, and rested body. The last thing you need is a cold or cough to add to your woes.

Merry Christmas Parents! Your awesome and so is your family! It-s-A-Wonderful-Life-christmas-movies-2394010-1024-768

Philippians 4: 4 “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Day 4… Road Trip Revival. #iShineontheroad “Attitude at Altitude!”

Rolled into Dubois WY… snagging the last 2 rooms at the local Super 8. Dusty, dry and breezy. Temps in July were pushing 100F as we drove the 2 lane ribbon across the hazy, flat, high plains of eastern Wyoming. The sun lingered slow and low in the horizon… seven, eight… almost nine pm before we saw it start to slip over the distant ridge.

The Mountains!

The Mountains!

Sweaty, tired and butt numb we felt the miles. Wall SD to Dubois WY is only about 600 miles with a short detour to Mt.Rushmore NP, but it’s a good long 12 hours of travel. We crashed early and didn’t really notice the clear cool night emerging outside our windows.

We awoke to winter.

42F at 6:30am. My breath fogging the inside of our SUV. My naked legs one giant goose-bump of frigid skin.I had to dig out one of my light fleece pull-over’s to give my body some chance at finding warmth. The shock was complete. We had gone from the blazing heat of high summer sun to COLD.

A sixty degree temperature swing in 8 hours.

We were in the mountains and I couldn’t be happier. The cool / cold morning was such a relief. Felt like a peppermint patty embrace to my summer sweat soaked brain. No humidity, No sweating, No bugs. AWESOME !

As I look around to find someone else to share my jubilant happiness with… I only saw heaps of blankets and fetal postured freezing teens huddled in the back. Chattering teeth and groans quickly deflated me.

I confidently proclaimed the cold wouldn’t last! In fact, for sure by noon it would be bright and warm again, at least 80F with gorgeous mountain summer light. We were heading up the Wind River Valley to clip the edge of Grand Teton NP and push into Yellowstone! The grandest of them all. I had no idea it would turn out to be one of the coldest days possible for July. Snow flurries and sleet would be settled in by noon and would never allow temps to rise higher than 55F.

Tough Day

Tough Day

This led to some complaint and grumbling… but no one could deny the beauty of the mountain scenes before us and we toured the iconic spaces and places (Old Faithful, Yellowstone Falls, Buffalo on the plains etc…)of our oldest and grandest NP (in lower 48) with layers of shirts and jackets wrapping our unprepared limbs. As our altitude rose over 10,000 feet, our attitudes grew a bit short and over the long day of driving and stopping, shooting selfies, and dodging the hordes of tourists… some of us got very crabby 🙂

When we drove up and over the highest pass back to our cozy Super 8 rooms…. it began to snow big time. 3-4 Inches would pile up overnight. I shivered in my hiking shorts as we drove on. Smiling at the irony of it all.

I was the only one smiling. 

Tomorrow our days adventures would change the girls forever. But before the hope of dawn… we had to get through a very dark night.

By God’s grace…. we made it. But it was a tough road to ride.

Day 5 tomorrow; a BRAND NEW DAY.

drip drip drip… the power of persistence

Parents, are you tempted to throw in the towel with your tween?

I know… it’s overwhelmingly difficult sometimes to parent a hormone-soaked-storm like the typical teen or tween. They know how to push each exasperation button we have… and somehow avoid being responsible for “ANYTHING” from their school grades to the family shared, mobile, data-plan last month 🙂

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They disdain our “ancient” wisdom of 40 something as outright stupidity and live comfortable in the smug knowledge they are in fact… the geniuses. Cerebral giants who can barely tolerate our presence in their ‘homes’.  We call these crazies our kids and if you’re not careful… they can wear you down to the nub…

Or even worse, they might make you so exhausted… you give up! 

DO NOT GIVE UP ON THEM !

DO NOT STOP PARENTING

DO NOT STOP CAREFULLY KEEPING THE BOUNDARIES OF LIFE, LOVE, AND YOUR FAMILY INTACT !

Don’t stop praying, don’t stop sharing, don’t stop daring to believe in their hearts catching fire for Christ ! We underestimate our value, our power as parents ! Our kids get over 70 hours week of mainstream media ingested into their noggin and less than 3 hours of parent & pastor combined…

Poll after poll tells us that tweens (kids 7-13) and teens admit the opinions and ideas of their parents are THE SINGLE MOST INFLUENTIAL VOICE IN THEIR LIVES ! 

Be persistent !Untitled-111-980x613

It’s not up to us to convince… only God can change a heart or an attitude. But we as parents can be intentional about never – ever giving up on our kids. Of living out our faith values with honesty and persistence, day-in and day-out… like water on rock, over time… the water wins !

Pastor B.

The distant dusty planet called…”Emptybrainus”

Immediate “disclaimer” – the title doesn’t make sense unless you have a teenager at home and you read to the very end.

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As parents, our emotions are constantly shifting, changing from one extreme to the other, like a pendulum on Starbucks triple shot espresso. Our world can swirl and twirl and flip us upside down in a second and an hour later we’re laying on our face in the emotional gutter and wondering what happened. This is overwhelming true if your parenting a teen.

howsmydayinutarkampar.blogspot.com

howsmydayinutarkampar.blogspot.com

From the moment we lift our lead filled eyelids in the morning to the last gasp of breath before it’s a snore, we face so much uncertainty and challenge it tempts us to just “react” our way through the next 18 hours. We have reasons to move protectively and guarded throughout our day, watching and waiting for the next disappointment to show itself and prove how right we are about how bad things have become. We’re convinced that our world is fragile, like an egg about to be cracked on a hot stove…

But, that’s not really living… it’s surviving.

As parents and followers of Christ, we are given another option beyond bare human existence…we’re offered a chance to “thrive”, to actually “LIVE” our lives in a positive direction, focused and intentionally moving forward.

It comes down to our internal choice of what we’re going to believe to be true. Let me explain….  IF we only believe in our own ability to fix stuff, exclusively looking to come up with our solutions to our daily disappointments,we’re going to get “reactionary” in a heartbeat. We’re in danger of being trapped in an endless current of fear, frustration and bitterness at the repeated “losses” we feel.

IF we choose to “remember” the heritage of faith that we have in our hero Jesus, we can recall the hundreds of times he’s saved us from every kind of trial, painful disappointment or open betrayal. When we choose to look on the one whose faithfulness is timeless and true, we can shrug off the moments of emotional turmoil as the normal side effects of living life as a human and put them back into proper perspective rather than allowing them to overshadow our entire day.

Our source of hope and happiness cannot be the pulse of our emotional heartbeat…. instead

we can find stability and strength in our own personal epistle of God’s faithfulness, looking back to see where, when and how God showed up to fix things in our past. Remembering those impossible life situations that were miraculously flipped from bad to awesome. It gives us a personal test-a-ment, a tangible evidence we’re not in this all alone, that there is a good, kind and just God, who cares about our lives. 

God is constant, He is eternal and He is unchanging.

That’s welcome relief for those of us who are parenting in the turbulence of real life with real trials, and longing for something solid to put our full trust into… to be able to really rest in the middle of an insane world. The bible puts it like this…

Revelation 21:4-6 (ESV)

 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment.

SO hang in there dear ones… God will show up, He has, he will and he’s going to. We don’t have to wait until we’re dead in Heaven to find rest for our souls, we can have it right now… even when our lives seem to be trapped in orbit around those hormone fueled teenagers who live on a distant dusty planet called, Emptybrainus! 🙂

Love you ! Pastor B.

Emptybrainus !

Emptybrainus !                                               (source tracinguniverse.blogspot.com )

Things God can’t do.

Funny title, serious subject.

Things that God can’t do… an odd thought for families of faith, but important stuff to remind ourselves regularly and make the extra effort to teach to our kids.

Passing it on… (image courtesy of diabetes.org)

1- God cannot LIE.

Hebrews 6:18 (ESV) – ” 18 so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us…”

Titus 1:2 (ESV) – ” 2 in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began”

2- God cannot break His WORD, PROMISES or COVENANT.

Deuteronomy 7:9 (ESV) ”  Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations,”

3- God cannot FAIL.

Isaiah 46:10 (ESV) ” 10 declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done,
saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’”

In a world where failure, compromise and broken promises are the “norm”… it’s important to surround ourselves with the powerful reminder of who God really is and how different His ways are from ours. It’s a temptation to translate our failures and the failings of those we love and rely on into our relationship with God.

Nothing could be further from the truth. God is infinite, perfect and incapable of falling short of exactly what we long for. We can trust in, rely on and believe for all our needs. He is unlike anyone or anything we know. He is GOD.

When your day starts to spin out of control… or your heart gets broken and your hopes are dashed… REMEMBER who you can truly place your trust in.

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Teach these things to our children, bind them about our hearts and minds and whisper His promises to your loved ones when all seems lost. It is this confidence of salvation in one who cannot disappoint that gives us the ability to press on and pass it on.

May this simple reminder, help to lift and guard your hearts and minds on the long and often lonely journey of parenthood.

Love you all,

brad.

Looking forward in Faith….

Sometimes the world  we live in can drag us down,  pulling us into a dark despair and distracted introspection of our lives.  I’ve struggled with the temptation to just give in to hopelessness. With the ever-increasing bad news and gloom prophesied over us by our  news media and political forecasters, it’s exhausting some days not to. As parents it seems we’re wrestling inside ourselves to maintain our sense of purpose. It’s hard to find the conviction to provide encouragement in our homes as we all face such pervasive  negativity and frustration everywhere you turn… But we MUST!

I was reminded of the need to encourage and refresh myself and my family of God’s past faithfulness to us.  Not just for my personal home life, but for all of us. The responsibility as Christian parents collectively to remember to share with future generations of the reliable nature and faithfulness of our God to His people.

Psalm 78: 3-7 (NLT – courtesy of Biblegateway.com)

We will not hide these truths from our children;
we will tell the next generation
about the glorious deeds of the Lord,
about his power and his mighty wonders.
5 For he issued his laws to Jacob;
he gave his instructions to Israel.
He commanded our ancestors
to teach them to their children,
6 so the next generation might know them—
even the children not yet born—
and they in turn will teach their own children.
7 So each generation should set its hope anew on God,
not forgetting his glorious miracles
and obeying his commands.

To that end…i’ve decided to consciously limit the amount of national and world news broadcasts I absorb daily and start to increase the amount of hope I digest instead. It’s not a matter of denial or intellectual isolation to avoid the realities of life, but a choice to focus on the good. I’m reminded of how important it is to fill my mind and heart with the hopeful and the redemptive nature of God and to seek out those who are actively following in His path vs. the reports of violence, despair and devastation that streams across our smartphones every second of every day.

I believe if we guard ourselves from endless quantities of bad news.., we allow our hearts and our minds to recover from the restless nature of our environment and become re-established in the strength and peace of renewed Hope. When we do, it changes us subtly… and we naturally begin to influence others with our optimism and courage, including our kids. If your home is struggling to regain peace and comfort in the midst of chaos and uncertainty… it’s probably a good bet you need to consider doing some similar media dieting as well.

When the community of faith regains its memory and testimony of God’s faithfulness in our day to day lives, I believe Psalm 78 is promising that we will recover our kids hearts too.  When our youth  see the grace and peace of an entire generation of parents who remain calmly hopeful in the face of certain disaster… the sincerity and power of our faith in Christ will shine in the midst of the darkness.

Breath deep of the Hope that is in God’s word, His faithfulness to each generation and His commitment to meet every need of His people.Press on dear parent… you are not alone.

Brad.

Finding strength in our weakness

As a parent we can often find ourselves exhausted, overwhelmed and discouraged, and then to add to our misery we condemn ourselves for feeling so exhausted, overwhelmed and discouraged. We struggle to carry the load of personal guilt for being ‘bad parents” as if somehow we have failed our families for being weak….? That voice of condemnation we hear is dark, divisive, dangerous and for sure not from God.

Let me encourage you with a simple reminder that comes directly from God’s word…

Bible gateway.com  9But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me”

If in your day-to-day struggles of leading your family, you find yourself in a position of weakness… don’t panic. It’s O.K.

Remember that God has a wired us to need Him, not just for our first time sinners prayer experience… but for our entire life. We are not meant to be able to handle life all on our own, it’s our own pride that insists we should. A religious pride that can sneak into our minds and rob us of our peace and joy and comfort in Christ. It whispers to us that WE should be able to handle things easier, better or stronger that others. It would never dare to challenge our basis for salvation, but indirectly it nibbles away at our foundation of grace until we eventually forget that we never ever had the power to change our lives on our own.

Step back today, remember the GRACE of God to change our hearts from old to new. From failed men and women to redeemed and remind yourselves of the power that is only found in our savior Jesus Christ. When we hit empty and drop to our proverbial knees in failure… His power and His strength are revealed.

So this week, as you labor to lead your families and kids, don’t surrender your faith in overcoming the multitude of challenges in your life, just surrender the need to believe you have to solve everything on your own.

When we convince ourselves that its up to us alone to be good parents, we live under the pressue of having to have an answer for everything. We have to be able to find a resolution to every dilemma or summon enough patience for every frustration or conflict we encounter. When we assume the responsibility alone… we are actively stepping back into a world of self and stress… a world that carries a ton of weariness and guilt and it’s impact will rob us of much of what we have been freely given in Christ. Sometimes we forget that everything we have, and are and are going to be is accomplished not by us, but by the grace of God in our lives. REMEMBER;

Your kids are going to be saved by GRACE.

Your marriage will be kept by GRACE.

Your home will be at peace by GRACE.

Your job will be effective by GRACE.

Your ministry will change lives by GRACE.

Your day will begin and end in peace if you choose to live by GRACE.

So if you dare… stop thrashing your way through your day… Re-start your day by “waiting” for God. Wait to hear His voice before making decisions. Wait to feel His strength before engaging with your latest struggles. Wait to feel His peace before confronting the latest emotional explosion in your home. Wait and be renewed in the power of your weakness. Waiting is as simple as “listening” to God after you ask in prayer for help. It may mean shutting off your radio, television or iPod, it may mean stepping back into your bedroom before going out into the day. For some, pulling off the road or taking a walk at work, do what you have to do to get quiet enough to hear the still small voice of God for you.

Isaiah 40:31 /  (ESV)

31but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength;
   they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
   they shall walk and not faint.

Be encouraged faithful onesGod is with you, He is beside you and He will empower you in the very darkest of your days. No matter how empty, weak or discouraged you “FEEL”… God is waiting for us to surrender again.

Peace and Grace to you as we all “seek to keep our families in between the lines and on the road of life.”

Brad.